Type Case

A new exhibition typeface for The Museum of Science

Typeface Designer Akira Kobayashi discusses his Akko design, which brands a new exhibit at the Museum of Science, Boston

Type Case: Akko was selected as the main brand identity font for the Hall of Human Life, the new permanent exhibit at the Museum of Science, Boston. Why do you think Akko was the perfect choice for the exhibit? 

Akira: The exhibition will be visited by different age groups, and Akko welcomes the elder generation as well as children. Even in a very small size or from a distance, it’s easy to read because of its ample counters and generous letter spacing. It’s a contemporary sans serif design that looks friendly and approachable in display sizes, which is something you’d expect to see in museum signage. Akko also has a very human quality that underwrites the exhibit concept.

Various architectural terms set using members of the Akko Pro and Akko Rounded Pro familiesVarious architectural terms set using members of the Akko Pro and Akko Rounded Pro families

Type Case: What do you think are the benefits of this typeface over other contemporary sans?

Akira: There are no more than a handful of contemporary sans which could be categorized into the same group, but Akko has a certain rhythm which makes it comfortable to read. Even though Akko has a distinct design personality, I was careful to ensure that it would be a highly legible and versatile design. 

Type Case: What was your inspiration for Akko?

Akira: I wanted to create something like a cross between the Cooper Black and DIN designs – Cooper for warmness and DIN for coolness. I’ve always had a weakness for round sans, and I’ve been fascinated by Cooper Black since I was a teenager. I was in an art circle in my high school, and I still remember a poster for the group using Cooper Black in white on a bright red background. So in the end, I tried to design a sans serif with both softness and a contemporary look. 

Akko Pro Regular 72 pt. Comparison of words set with and without fi, fl, ch, ck, sch, ct and st ligatures (default kerning)Akko Pro Regular 72 pt. Comparison of words set with and without fi, fl, ch, ck, sch,ct and st ligatures (default kerning)

Type Case: Which did you design first, Akko or Akko Rounded?

Akira: I started by drawing the rounded characters, and the ‘standard’ sans variation was a byproduct. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Japan, where hand-drawn round sans serif type used to be very common. If you look at public signage in Japan, a rounded sans style is the default choice – probably because Kanji characters with rounded edges are easier to draw than squared endings. So it’s not unusual for me to start with the rounded version.

Type Case: What do you think people will find so special about Akko?

Akira: It appears modern but is not too mechanical or too cold. It’s a modern sans that should age well. The DIN influences on the design give the characters a strong structural foundation and yet Akko also has a warm, inviting demeanor. 

Akko Sketches
Akko sketch